A new tool that Lynn Flaming jokingly calls "the puddler" helps him conserve water and thwart soil erosion.

Flaming, of Elsie, NE, is referring to his Sunco Props, propeller-like row units he attaches to the toolbar of his eight-row cultivator and eight-row ripper. The devices rotate to form small, oval-shaped reservoirs at 45 degree angles to the rows for catching rain and irrigation water.

"Keeping water on our sandy soil is always difficult," explains Flaming, who used the invention on nearly 3,000 acres of irrigated corn in '98. "By utilizing the Props, I get puddling action and this gives the water time to soak in. By essentially eliminating runoff, the irrigation water is used more efficiently and there's less soil erosion."

George Witte, sales manager at Sunco Marketing, North Platte, NE, explains the process: "As the ripper or cultivator loosens the soil, the Props roll easily along and create small reservoirs and then build little dams of soil around each reservoir."

The reservoirs keep the soil profile moist and the ground softer so there's better root penetration in all types of soil, says Witte.

"By keeping water, herbicide, fertilizer and soil in the field, yield increases are likely, which we're in the process of documenting."

The reservoirs are spaced about 28" apart and each is 6-8" deep, says Witte, who adds that operators can drive four to eight miles per hour without throwing soil or feeling strong vibrations.

Props are said to be useful for several crops, including corn, soybeans, cotton, sunflowers and potatoes. "There's very little limitation on the types of row crops they can be used on," says Witte.

"If I planted my soybeans in rows, I would use the Props on them, too," says Flaming, who drills his beans.

While similar tools are available, he prefers this one because the reservoirs are easy to drive over during harvest.

"The guys who ran my combines last fall had no complaints about driving through rough fields. The holes didn't tear up my harvesting equipment," adds Flaming.

"By laying the holes at a 45 degree angle, you can drive over them at harvest, and your wheels don't fall into each hole," says Witte.

Props, which weigh about 115 lbs each, are available for 20"-, 30"- or 38"-row implements. Suggested list price: $565/unit.

For more information, contact Sunco Marketing, P.O. Box 2036, North Platte, NE 69103. Phone: 308-532-2146.